Sugar Matters
June 20, 2008
Is there anything I can do to prevent diabetes?

Dear Dr Ramsetty,

I have a family history of diabetes. I am 42 years old and right now, my blood sugars are normal. Is there anything I can do to prevent myself from getting diabetes? I have seen how it can wreak havoc on one’s health.{{more}}

Dear Reader,

Excellent question! Thank you for writing in and taking such an interest in your future health.

In terms of your overall risk of developing diabetes, you are at higher risk given that you have relatives with diabetes-the risk is higher if they are first degree relatives (parents, siblings) versus second degree or further (aunts, uncles, cousins). Other aspects that put you at risk for developing diabetes include the following: if you are overweight, lacking in exercise/activity, if you are a woman with a history of giving birth to children bigger than 9 pounds, and being from a high risk ethnic group (African, East Indian etc). You did mention that your blood sugars are now normal, which is great. If you have other health issues including heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you should keep an extra special eye out for diabetes because it likes to travel along with those diseases as well.

The reason to know your overall risk is that it tells you how often and when to get tested for diabetes. Given your age, if you have no other issues listed above, then you should have your sugar tested (either fasting or the 2-hour challenge) every 3 years after age 45. If you DO have any other of those issues, then it should be yearly.

In the meantime you can do a lot to decrease your chances of developing diabetes. We have some great research telling us that dedicated diet changes and exercise will help cut your risk of diabetes by about HALF! So if you are carrying a bit of extra weight, this is the first thing to do: start exercising, even a few minutes a day at the beginning, and change your diet around to help lose some weight. Cutting back on sugar never killed anyone, so get to it! Same with the fatty stuff.

Aside from some serious lifestyle changes, you can talk with your doctor about medications that may help. However, these are usually only used when your blood sugars are already a little bit abnormal.

No herb or supplement has been consistently shown in good research to significantly decrease your chances of diabetes, but there is some good suggestive information about cinnamon supplements. Traditionally bitter melon has also been used as well as string beans, but in research they use LARGE amounts so I don’t know how much effect they have in a small quantity. No harm in trying, though, and they are good for you anyway!

So overall: get busy with some exercise and daily activity (aim for at least 30 minutes five times a week), improve your diet, try to lose some weight if you are overweight, and be sure to keep a close eye on your sugars by checking in with your doc. You have a good chance of preventing or at least delaying it if you are able to jump in with these suggestions.

Take care and keep the questions coming!

Anita Ramsetty, MD [email protected]
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227